The Joy of Christmas
How do we experience joy in a world with so much grief? This is a good question to ask at the end of the year like 2020. How do we find God’s goodness when there is pain and loneliness? How do we begin to love our neighbors in a time that feels overly political and contentious? We stop and consider the miracle that is Christmas. We look for evidence of God’s unchanging nature. It is here we find joy.
This week I was reminded that we are not done with each other. We still step up and care for the stranger when it is our turn. During this week Jenny and I have had a concentrated chance to respond to need in our community through a needy young man. It warmed my heart to see how Jenny responded in a situation where we were short of resources and ability. In a time when resources can feel scarce, we give from what we have.
We often don’t know how to help. We see a need and we want to be appropriate in how we step in. This is a season where we are all within arm’s reach of someone who could use an extra dose of care. Here are three questions to ask yourself as you decide if and how to step in and help:
1. Is there actually a need here? Sometimes our idea of “need” is someone else’s abundance. At the supermarket this week, you might stop to assess if others indeed need help. We can run our observations through our own filters as we determine, does this person need some external support?
2. Is this person wanting my help? With strangers this can be tricky. Giving to organizations like Anglicare, Compassion and CMS offer some structure in how to step in. But it’s those chance encounters where we wonder Do they want my help? Read their body language, listen to their words and tone of voice, and then simply ask, “Would you like some help here?”
3. How am I best positioned to help? This may be a long-term question you ask yourself, or maybe it’s an in-the-moment assessment. I can’t offer anyone medical expertise, I’m not the one to run on the footy field when a player is injured, but I have stepped in when there has been a need for a little technical help with electronics. Ask yourself what you might uniquely offer in a moment of need. It might just be compassion and that can go a long way.
As we come to the end of Advent and come nearer to Christmas, consider the theme of joy, let us remember Nehemiah’s words, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
We can celebrate, share with others who are in need, and experience an unexpected stamina because we know the good news that Jesus came and we are waiting for him to come again. This is a fuel that helps us extend kindness to strangers as ambassadors of God who came down.
In a world that can feel dark, in a Christmas season that may be especially difficult for our neighbours, we can with JOY offer hope through our love and practical help. This is good news.